Much of September was surrounded by political fever as Wagga hit the polls and ended the Liberal Party’s seat that was held for more than 60 years.
Daryl Maguire resigned as the member for Wagga Wagga in early August, more than three weeks after ICAC hearing brought his political career to an end and a month later, a local doctor was sworn into Parliament replacing the seat as an Independent.
Dr Joe McGirr became the new Wagga MP and placed the city’s health and the allocation of funds as part of his top priorities.
The national strawberry saga hit Riverina schools twice in September, but the community banded together to support the farmers, who fell victims to both the strawberry sabotage and the drought.
Wagga public school parent Kirst Lloyd said despite the shock find at her child’s school, she would continue to buy strawberries to support growers.
“I’m angry and sad for our farmers,” Ms Lloyd said.
“They are the ones suffering.”
Annual events were also a huge success, including the 30th Aggies Races, Henty Machinery Field Days and the Gears and Beers Festival which brought outside people to the region.
James Hamilton and Brian Sprake, both 67, started high school in 1963 along with 368 students.
“It feels like we were all together yesterday, time goes so quickly,” Mr Sprake said.
September also saw Wagga mayor Greg Conkey and deputy mayor Dallas Tout re-elected for two more years.
“I am very proud and privileged to be able to lead this great city over the next two years and I sincerely thank my fellow councillors for giving me that privilege,” Cr Conkey said.
What does Wagga’s future look like?
The community’s future in Wagga has been restored as their voices are being heard for the first time in more than 60 years.
The disappointment of the nation’s major political parties has been evident in the Wagga and Wentworth by-elections.
Luke Manning, a young political enthusiast, said Wagga issues are being raised in Parliament and brought to a national attention.
“I believe that the people of Wagga were yearning for more, they felt rejected and ignored by the Liberal Party and their campaign in the by-election was run in Sydney and they hadn’t done anything prior,” Mr Manning said.
“When I heard that Dr Joe McGirr was the new MP I was worried because typically Independents tend to not have a lot of power unless they do a deal with the government or opposition.
“But he seems to be doing a lot for Wagga and raising issues that we are experiencing, which is wonderful to see.
“He raised the asbestos being discovered at Kooringal High School and told the Ministers that this shouldn’t be done and it needs to be removed immediately,” he said.
Mr Manning predicts that Dr McGirr will likely remain as the member for Wagga in the March election because people know they’re concerns are being heard.
The recent announcement of Wagga Base Hospital’s stage three upgrade on December 21 and confirmation of a multi-story car park gives evidence that Dr McGirr has placed the city’s health needs as a top priority.
“One of the things I was campaigning for was the increase in police numbers and the government has delivered that, including specialists in relation to drugs so that is an incredibly good start,” Dr McGirr said.
“But I have also been in discussion with housing providers, the department of housing and the police around and the issues involving communities and it’s pretty clear we need to strengthen the response from the government, who coordinate all those different agencies.
“I’ve identified that as a way of taking action and making that a priority.”
Dr McGirr said the time has come for residents to “lift their vision” as they have a leader who will connect with the government and discuss the issues facing the community.
“I think now that we’ve become a marginal seat, it’s time for the community, the seat of Wagga, Tumut, Lockhart and the other towns to start thinking big with aspiration,” he said.
“We’ve spent so long catching up on infrastructure and I think we’re at a point where we can explore what opportunities there might be in the future.
“Do we pursue an equex centre, an indoor arena, in Wagga? This is our moment and providing the leadership to do that is a great opportunity.”